In order to justify its $64 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Trump administration and its allies have had to propagate several myths. The most insidious one is that many SSDI recipients are not truly worthy of benefits. They have suggested that mental illness is among the more dubious qualifications for SSDI. Senator Rand Paul famously remarked that “over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.” Former Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling sums it up quite succinctly in The Atlantic:
The Administration is already deploying selective—and often deceptive—facts to stigmatize and caricature both the Social Security Disability Insurance program and its recipients. This sort of framing justifies using Social Security as a piggy bank to raid in order to help offset tax cuts for top-earning Americans. – Gene Sperling, 5/23/17
These convenient myths can be effective in undermining public support for SSDI, but they are dangerous for the millions of Americans with mental disorders who depend on federal disability benefits to prevent them from sinking into abject poverty.